Friday, July 31, 2009

Skirting Trouble in North Korea?

North Korean Female Soldiers
Strutting Their Stuff!
(Image from Japan Probe)

North Korean female soldiers might be allowed to wear the pants, albeit short pants. Very short. Or even miniskirts! But the ordinary North Korean woman had better not wear any pants. Just the traditional, lengthy skirt:
North Korean authorities are forcing women to wear skirts, to such an extent that women not wearing skirts are banned to enter the markets. Women appeal that skirts are so inconvenient at work . . . . Naturally most women prefer wearing pants to skirts because pants allow more freedom in movement. In response, authorities organized disciplinary teams with Youth Union, Democratic Women's Union and Students to inspect women's clothing. Any woman [found] without wearing skirt will be placed in forced labor, and consequently women have to wear skirts when they go out. Women in City of Nampo, South Pyongan Province, complain in unison, "All the streets are covered with disciplinary teams. No women, not only peddlers but also those going for shopping at the markets, are allowed into the market if they are not wearing skirts. Wouldn't it be better to wear the most convenient clothes in order to raise productivity . . . ? Why do they insist women wearing skirts which most women consider inconvenient?" (North Korea Today Nr. 285, July 10, 2009)
But some clever women find a diverting compromise:
Forced to wear skirts, women with no skirts have to borrow them whenever they go out. Some women put pants on and wear skirts similar to a large sack on top of it. On June 12th, . . . Ok-hwa (30s) in Nampo City, South Pyongan Province, told us the following episode. "It was my turn to sweep the street for a week then. I went out to the street at five in the morning with a sweeper . . . . On the other side of the street, a male member of a disciplinary team was inspecting everyone carrying luggage on bicycles. A little later, another member of the disciplinary team started inspecting women's clothing. One of the members shouted at a woman who seems to have come from rural area to peddle vegetable, 'Why are you wearing pants?' As soon as the women heard the shout, they touched their waists and let their rolled up skirts down, and their pants disappeared. The male member of the disciplinary team instantly seemed amazed. He then motioned the women to move on. After the women moved a few steps, they exploded in laughter. The sight of women laughing was so sweet. At the same time, I heard a complaint from behind me, 'I thought I could earn a pack of cigarette. I am out of luck from the dawn.'" (North Korea Today Nr. 285, July 10, 2009)
But other, younger women are reluctant to compromise:
Even with skirts, some women are not fine. Especially some young women who are anxious to display their beauty want to wear miniskirts and skirts with rather colorful flowery patterns. The problem is that those skirts are now the targets for control and ideology strife . . . . [M]iniskirts and skirts with flowery patterns are considered for women with "rotten ideology" . . . . Myung-joo (pseudonym, 20s) . . . had to pay a fine after a clothing inspection. She complained with a criticism, "Everything in this country is under control, from the top of head to the bottom of feet. Hair shouldn't be long. Hair shouldn't be loosened. Permanent wave shouldn't be done on hair. Wouldn't freedom and beauty be the most desired for women at my age? No matter what control may be carried out, young women will try to evade the control and do how they would like to do at any cost. This reality should not be ignored and neglected" . . . . Hwa-yung (pseudonym, 20s) . . . added, "Wouldn't it be nice to follow the customs of other countries if they are good? Why do we insist that only ours are the best? Everyone has his or her own way of seeing or enjoying things. I wish they didn't care about what women wear, miniskirts or tight pants. If young people were lectured on not 'to follow fad,' they will find their way to do it. That is why the control does not have any effect." (North Korea Today Nr. 285, July 10, 2009)
Goodness, what with the controls on hair styles, North Korea sounds just as restrictive as a South Korean public school! All quipping aside, the contradictions in North Korean society are obvious. Female soldiers wear pants as short as miniskirts and diplay their long legs as boldly as those French ladies dancing the high-kicking cancan at the Moulin Rouge or the Crazy Horse Cabaret, but ordinary civilian women must wear long skirts even while working in the markets or sweeping the streets!

Younger women, however, have grown aware enough of the outside world to realize that there's nothing wrong with following "the customs of other countries if they are good," and they justify their choices by the individualistic principle of a woman's right to "her own way of seeing or enjoying things."

Kim Il-sung's old Juche ideology stands threatened by such views as the North's system gradually, inevitably crumbles away.

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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Ozark Hillbilly 'Concrete Pond'

A new Ozark Mountain hillbilly report comes to me from my lovely wife, who has provided another series of exciting action photos for me to post along with her basic text and my 'extrapolations':
"Today we went to the swimming pool and swam from 1 to 5. The weather was just right for swimming, quite cloudy but we still got sun burn."
Apparently, this confirms that the promised upstream swim succeeded, for although no actual documentary proof has been forwarded of that arduous achievement, today's photographs do show our two offspring cavorting in the Salem pool! Or was En-Uk rescuing his older sister?

Uh-oh, the rescue fails miserably . . . yet, they make sport about the failure!

Scandalous! En-Uk in the 'deep' water, yet both parties laugh! Nevertheless, the offspring survive and opt for more dangerous pursuits in the pool's deeper end.

This took great courage, for as Sun-Ae noted, "[t]here were not many people" around to offer assistance in case of emergency way out in the ginormous pool, even though the admission price was low, for "it cost only $1.50 for each." Nevertheless, "the water was clean, the safety guards were nice, and" since "the diving board was the best," the kids went for the gusto. Sun-Ae explains:
"As you can see from the pictures, Sa-Rah and En-Uk had a lot of fun. One can go diving only if one can swim cross the pool where the division line was because the part where one can dive is 9 feet deep. I thought that En-Uk cannot swim, but because he wanted to dive, he passed the test of swimming cross the pool. I was very surprised and impressed. He had no fear of diving."
I vividly recall that same 9 feet of water. I used to risk my life at the bottom by picking up the grates that guarded the sucking drains and using those grates as weights to hold me down so that I could walk on the pool's floor. My kids had better not do that -- unless they want to feel my wrath! Anyway, far above that octopus's garden, En-Uk takes the first step and with deliberation approaches for the dive.

Cognizant of his contingent finitude, En-Uk pauses to call on a higher power as a local, tatooed pirate looks on indulgently.

The prayer is successful, for En-Uk bravely and successfully 'dives' into the abyss.

Sun-Ae then informs us that En-Uk subsequently displays his typically 'En-Uk-ian' mode of operations:
"As soon as he started, he continued diving without getting exhausted as you know about his usual obsession. That was fun. They 'forced' me also to dive, so I did, and it was fun. There were two young safety guards, who were very nice to teach some things for kids. En-Uk was again the 'talkative' person and had good conversation with them."
If I know En-Uk, he wearied them with incessant queries and prideful boasts. But he accomplished even more, for he "even encouraged [an unusually] reluctant Sa-Rah to dive, too." Reluctant? Sa-Rah is typically more courageous than En-Uk! Howsoever, let us observe Sa-rah's 'dives', as she learns from En-Uk.

Sa-Rah even goes on to perfect En-Uk's bodacious dive!

She manages to 'dive' yet again, with even greater perfection.

But the pool is filling up, getting crowded with other hillbillies, and is therefore growing dangerous to 'dive' into . . . but wait, En-Uk risks another dive.

The astonished judges award him a 9.6 for this unexpected, transformative plunge! Afterwards, En-Uk appears for his medal clothed in a garment designed for inclement weather.

I believe that he's dressed here for an imminent ice age . . . contrary to the advice offered by most other contemporary prophecies. Sa-Rah follows 'suit' . . . so to speak.

Hence, both kids, clothed for global cooling, returned "home, . . . hungry and tired" and, according to Sun-Ae, "ate left-over lasagna from yesterday, sausages, and ramyeon, and pudding as desert."

At the homestead, they were greeted by other relatives. Actually, some kinfolk visited earlier. "This morning, [your brother Tim's son] Justin came to visit," but later "in the afternoon, [brother John's son,] Joshua[,] came." Sun-Ae added that it seems that "Justin . . . reads your blog every day. He likes writing songs and is working on a book now, something about [the] church in ancient time[s] and now, a big theme, I assume. He said that his band is now dissolved." That is a big theme! He must be doing a lot of reading. I wonder what sort of songs he's writing, despite his band being dissolved. And just as that band was growing popular . . .

Uh-oh, there's news of Uncle Cran:
"I talked to Aunt Gay, Uncle Cranford's wife, and they will come on Friday to pick us up. Maybe we'll stay there overnight and do another [bout of] fishing, or the wi-game."
The what game? Or the why game? Uncle Cran, I know that you're reading this, so what sort of 'game' do you have scheduled? Or why?

Finally, Sun-Ae signs off with these ambiguous words:
"I'm enjoying your blog about our trip, how you can fabricate an interesting story out of those pictures."
Fabricate? Fabricate? What fabrication?! Do ye think I'd be telling it if t'warn't the truth?!

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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Fishy Goings-On in the Ozarks

An early email arrived from my wonderful wife describing an Ozark outing devoted to fine fishing.

"This morning, we went to Uncle Clarence's farm and did [some] fishing as you can see [from] the pictures. We had fun catching a lot of fish, mainly perch. Sa-Rah was the one who caught the first fish . . ."

". . . but En-Uk was the one who caught the most fish." Starting with this one:

"He caught about 11, Sa-Rah 3, and I did 2." The fishing conditions must have been extraordinary, for Sa-Rah apparently hooked one on dry land:

I can see from the oak tree's position and also from En-Uk's casting direction that Sa-Rah is facing dry land. What a miracle! Let's see if that critter is really a fish.

Yeah, it's a fish . . . and a rather big perch, at that! I reckon that it's the dry-land variety. There aren't many of those, so Sa-Rah was indeed fortunate. My wife tells me that after such an astounding success 'landing' a perch, "Sa-Rah switched to catching catfish, sitting on the chair and waiting for a catfish to bite the bait, but without success." Maybe she should have tried for a dry-land cat?

"She then got bored and stopped fishing." That large bale of hay was obviously scaring off the fish, which are terribly nervous during haying season because they know from experience that a horde of teenage boys fresh from hauling hay can at any moment launch themselves from the banks and cannonball into the water. En-Uk, however, far from the haybale, continued to fish.

Uncle Clarence stood nearby, practicing his golf swing . . . unless he was baiting En-Uk's hook with the sacrificial crickets, for as Sun-Ae tells me, "He raises crickets to use them as bait."

With the vicarious sacrifice of those crickets, Uncle Clarence and little En-Uk stood under the iconic tree and became fishers of many . . . fishy underwater creatures. Sometimes known as fish.

Sun-Ae tells me that with Sa-Rah out of the competition, En-Uk caught by far the most fish -- 11 to her 3, you'll recall. There were repercussions. "Naturally, En-Uk was happy and became so proud, bragging [about] himself and making Sa-Rah feel jealous and annoyed." And well he might take pride, for we see here on ice these many fine fish, the vast majority of which were pulled in by En-Uk. Poor Sa-Rah, losing out to her bragging little brother!

"But [Sa-Rah overcame her negative feelings, and] they were fine and behaved alright." If so, then they are already more mature than I. Of course, they had a good role model, for not only did Uncle Clarence help with the fishing detail, but he "was [so] nice [as] to bring some sandwiches and drinks with him." Sun-Ae tells us that she "also took some sandwiches [along], but . . . ate his."

All of this took a considerable time, in toto: "We fished [for] about 3 hours and then the cows started making noise and moving, so we stopped."

Ah, yes, those pushy cattle, which undoubtedly had been anxiously awaiting their turn at fishing.

At any rate, as Sun-Ae reports, "It was relaxing and fun. Uncle Clarence is 83 but still so fit to do things with us, very nice." He's always been an outdoorsman -- in addition to being a scientist, specifically an entymologist. Hence the crickets.

Another day came to its happy end, but the next day will herald another fulfilling adventure. "Tomorrow," Sun-Ae tells me, "we might go swimming to the swimming pool."

To the swimming pool? Hmmm . . . that would be quite a swim. I'm not sure that it can be done. That pool is in the vicinity of yesterday's city-park lake (the site for sore eye-fishing), and one might be able to swim to the lake from my brother John's place. Just swim down South Fork River a piece, then up the town branch to where it divides into two small tributary creeks, take the right one, and then another right at the next split. Given the recent rains, one might be able to swim all the way up to the city-park lake, but the pool is further on uphill, and I don't recall any waterway link between the lake and the pool.

But expect photos from this promised underwater adventure of my offspring struggling like salmon against the current as they strive to achieve their nearly impossible goal of reaching that pool from which I sprang!

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

More Ozark Images: River and Lake

More scenic scenes of happy hillbilly fabulous fun from the downhome darned old Ozarks!

You see first an action shot of my 12-year-old Sa-Rah expressing her astonishment at the super-clear-flowing mountain clarity of the extraordinarily "clear water of the South Fork of the Spring River[, which] runs through the northeastern boundaries of Salem and provides recreational opportunities, such as fishing and floating," for knowledgeable locals and unsuspecting tourists.

I actually used to swim in that water, despite being one of those "knowledgeable locals" aware of the hog farming that went on upstream.

We next see 10-year-old En-Uk, preparing to skip a rock across those clear-flowing waters. Regular readers will recall that I recently trained him in that activity.

Unfortunately, my training of him was apparently insufficient. I'll next have to teach him that rocks won't ordinarily pass through trees. Or had En-Uk been reading about Herschel Ducker's childhood pastime of implanting rocks in tree crotches? Hmmm . . .

Anyway, after excessive amounts of fun by the river, Sa-Rah and En-Uk visit the town lake (no, not that other, previously mentioned 'lake'), where the better waters invite a little fishing:

I must say that I don't recall so many regulations from back when I was a kid, but that's progress. Click on the image to enlarge for reading, if such is important to you, and you'll see that fishing is allowed these days with pole or rod only. I remember fishing that old lake with nets and trotlines back when my cousins from South Carolina visited. Good thing that the American constitution allows no ex post facto laws, or my whole family would be felons!

Having neither rod nor pole, Sa-Rah and En-Uk are limited to 'eye-fishing' -- if I might be allowed to invent a "Konglish" word.

Fresh from 'eye-fishing', En-Uk shows us the inexplicably supercilious look that he has caught.

Better toss that one back in, En-Uk. I don't like the looks of it. As punishment for his attitude, En-Uk is subjected to the torque torture.

This tortuous method has its desired effect as En-Uk wretchedly retches into a nearby ditch.

A moral lesson having been imparted, En-Uk joins his sister and grandmother for a chastened stroll along the lakeside path.

Afterwards, the three of them join other relatives at South Fork Restaurant -- nowhere near the clear-flowing South Fork River, thankfully -- and dig into a hearty meal.

Sa-Rah employs the meal as a teachable moment and instructs En-Uk on the etiquette of utilizing a useful eating utensil to adjust one's necktie at the table.

And an exciting day comes to its happy end, or so we must believe, for no other images were forwarded to me by my lovely wife, who 'appears' in the above photos solely as my own adopted point of view.

For I have learned that adapting to her perspective on things works out best for me in the long run . . .

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Monday, July 27, 2009

Min Young Hahn: "Lack of Individuality"

Things have changed?

About one week ago, I finished teaching a summer course at Ewha Womans University for the EPO. In that course, we focused on education in Korea, and most of the students had generally negative things to say about the Korean education system for middle and high schools. I was quite interested in the students' papers, so I asked if any would like to have their remarks posted to my blog. I had wanted to write an entry of my own using quotes from the various papers, but that turns out to be impossible. The only student to send her paper was Min Young Hahn, who wrote a paper titled "Lack of Individuality," so I'm pasting it below in its entirety:
I changed my school two times, once middle school and then high school. In first case, the reason why I transferred was for a better curriculum. I attended a very good private primary school, so my parents and I could not be satisfied with public school. The next transfer, in high school, was to get fairer teachers as well as a better curriculum. Through these experiences, I learned that near Seoul, you can have an improved curriculum with more honest and more competent teachers. In spite of the better education, however, overall Korean education seems wrong to me. Having a better school is not enough for a good education if it is not based on individuality.

First of all, getting the best grades is everything at school, but grades should not be the goal of students at all. The real goal should be the learning that helps students to open their eyes toward society. When I was in middle school, I was one of the worst-graded students, so teachers ignored me and had bias against me. Most of them did not try to teach me anymore. The attitude caused me to repeat a vicious circle: I got bad grades again and again. Even when I became one of the highest-graded students in high school, I had to study for my grades, not for my knowledge. If I went to ask teachers things out of curiosity, they said, "just memorize." Even if you get good marks, it does not mean you know much, it means you memorize well. And according to your marks, you'll be regarded well or badly.

Secondly, school teaches students to obey. I learned it from the inspection of students' uniforms and haircuts at the front gate of school. Sometimes it did not fit my character. I agree that sometimes, obedience is important to keep order in school, but it must not trespass on my personal rights. Particularly, I had to cut my hair in compliance with the standards of school despite my body being mine. While I was being inspected in front of the gate, I could not stop thinking "Why on earth do they want to decide the length of my haircut?" The reason may be that the school had decided to dominate students thoroughly regardless of their individuality. Hair became a symbol of personal freedom to me. Having to be examined from somebody itself was disagreeable, too. School should distinguish between obedience necessary for order and obedience that infringes on students' rights.

In addition, wrongful conformity is the worst violation of individuality. On the surface, school looks peaceful, and students cooperate well. Because they come to a situation to spend their whole year with the same friends in a small classroom, they try to make conversation with other students so as not to be isolated. As a result, they follow general trends passively. Therefore, it is not cooperation, but lack of individuality and wrong conformity. I was a gregarious student. At least I believed I was. However, I realized that I was nothing more than adapting myself to conformity regardless of myself. The blinding effect of this hypocrisy disgusted me and wore down my self-respect also. Conformity without one's own individuality is harmful compared to real cooperation.

In conclusion, although Korean education appears to be advanced, it still lacks respect for individuality. Because of the extremely oppressive education, I misunderstood the concept of freedom. I yearned for freedom so much that as soon as I graduated from high school, I did things without restriction or duty. This resulted from pursuits radically reversed to my former education, for it was full of restriction. I wandered to find my individuality for a long time. If I had had an education based on individuality, I could have saved some time.
Several other students wrote similar essays on Korean schools, so I'm inclined to think that a problem of excessive restriction does exist. For this and other reasons, my wife and I are thus going to homeschool our kids. Sa-Rah will begin homeschooling in January 2010, and En-Uk in January 2011. Later, they will probably go to American universities.

Incidentally -- though this is not the fault of Korean education -- in searching for pictures of Korean school uniforms, I encountered some deceptively labeled sites that I'd have preferred not to see, for there seems to be a fetish about such uniforms, but I finally found a safe site with the image provided above.

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Sunday, July 26, 2009

Sun-Ae's Ozark Images: Initial Days

South Fork River View
Click Images to Enlarge

According to my wife, Sun-Ae, En-Uk went down the hill to South Fork River -- which you see above with the many trees damaged by that ice storm from last winter -- and indeed got the turtle that he so confidenty asserted that he would catch (i.e., "I will catch a turtle tooday"), for Sun-Ae writes:
Today John took Sa-Rah and En-Uk to the river, and they actually caught a turtle but a very little one. They let it go. And something else they caught, too. But I don't remember, some kind of claufish.
Also a 'claufish'? Perhaps a "clawfish"? Sounds risky. Oh, I get it. A crawdad, a crayfish. Hence, my wife's Koreanized portmanteau word: "claufish'. Okay, that's straightened out . . . but what kind of turtle? Maybe I'll simply have to wait for En-Uk's own personal report. Meanwhile:
Kids also mowed the lawn, first on the truck with John. Later, Sa-Rah also did the push mower. She sweated and felt good about the exercise.
Excellent, they're suffering! Here's the iconic image:

Wait a second! En-Uk doesn't look to be suffering! I used to have to cut those weeds with a sling! If I mistake not, En-Uk is learning to drive a . . . dozer! Likewise, Sa-Rah -- despite using a pushmower -- is not even breaking a sweat, for the July temperature, much to my great astonishment, is reaching a high of merely 80 degrees fahrenheit (26.66 degrees centigrade):

She's obviously -- and coolly -- enjoying the outlook, for she observed: "Uncle John's new house has a great view." Hillbilly homes just ain't what they used to be, ain't what they used to be, ain't what they used to be, many long years ago! Rather like the "Old Gray Mare." Or like some episode from the Beverly Hillbillies! I fear that my kids will come back spoiled rather than disciplined! They'll also have a diminished image of their dad after scenes like this one:

Uncle John's place far exceeds what I've managed to obtain -- and the kids will certainly feel the difference when they return to Seoul! Sun-Ae, too, will not escape noticing the difference:

My wife, framed in the mirrored doorway, can thereby easily imagine herself living in such a house . . . and with such a variety of views:

Here's a close-up image of that 'lake':

But . . . what sort of 'lake'? On the phone, Sun-Ae described to me this lovely view of a nearby 'lake'. I had to ask:
"Near the hospital? A lake? That might be the sewage treatment pool."
In a moment of epiphany, Sun-Ae exclaimed:
"So . . . that's why your brother John smiled when he said, 'Yeah, you'd really like to go swimming in there'!"
I know somebody who did, and also what he stirred up from the lake's depths . . . but I won't mention any names. No, twarn't me! But let us turn to more pleasant scenes:

Here's the porch . . . or the patio. Either way, it's a spot for barbecues! Here's a clearer view, 'lake' partly included:

I begin to see clearly that I chose the wrong career path. I ought to have striven for the title of "Reverend" rather than "Professor"! At least I have successful brothers who are willing to share their wealth . . . and generous nieces like John's grown-up daughter, Crystal, as Sun-Ae noted:
Crystal said that Sa-Rah should come to the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, where she lives. She thinks that she can be a guardian for Sa-Rah and help her out for adjusting. I think that we should consider that prospect. Sa-Rah thinks of the possibility very positively. Crystal would be a very good person for her, I think. And Sa-Rah will feel more secure with her and near families.
This sounds like a very good idea, one that never would have occurred to me, but Sa-Rah could well benefit from family guidance when living in the States for the first time.

Well, there will be more photographs -- far more stunning ones . . . if the camera can capture them adequately.

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Saturday, July 25, 2009

En-Uk's Testudinal Email

Southern Painted Turtle
En-Uk's Hopeful Catch?
(Image from Wikipedia)

On Wednesday, I saw my wife and two kids off to the airport for their trip to my hometown of Salem, Arkansas. They arrived safely in the Ozarks and have big plans, especially my ten-year-old En-Uk, who emailed to say:
Dear Daddy,

I will catch a turtle tooday.

Well . . . his correspondence is nothing if not concise, so I'll have to draw as much from it as I can interpret. No "love," I see, so I'll assume that it's just understood to be there, so taken-for-granted that it need not be mentioned. I'm not sure what he meant by his less-than-concise "tooday" . . . possibly influenced by the extra-long Wednesday of the flight across time zones? Or did he expect to do too much on one day? Yet, he seems to have wanted only to catch a single turtle.

Actually, that's a big thing for him, and he's been talking about this for more than the past two weeks! Every day for about two weeks before leaving, he kept asking about the various turtles and tortoises in Arkansas. We've talked about the box tortoise, the soft-shelled turtle, the snapping turtle, and the painted turtle. Rather, En-Uk talked. Incessently. Particularly about the painted turtle, which I told him could be found in the South Fork River, a small river that flows through my hometown. Anyway, I answered his email with a slightly less concise one of my own:
Dear En-Uk,

Good luck with your efforts to catch a turtle. They might be difficult to catch in the summer. But try hard. Perhaps you will catch something else . . . such as a poisonous snake! Or an alligator. Or even a bolagator!


He's not likely to catch an alligator since they don't range that far up into Arkansas, and nobody will ever catch a 'bolagator', a mythical critter that's half alligator, half log. My cousins from South Carolina used to talk about bolagators, claiming that these critters lie quietly floating just at the water's surface, looking exactly like a log . . . until you get too close, and too late realize that it ain't no log. But he will need to watch out for poisonous aquatic snakes . . . such as the cottonmouth.

Speaking of which . . . I used to catch cottonmouths for pets when I was a kid, but I wouldn't advise En-Uk to try that.

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Friday, July 24, 2009

Superbia and Vanagloria in Austen's Pride and Prejudice

Character Map
Jane Austen's
Pride and Prejudice
Click Map to Enlarge
(Image from Wikipedia)

A more developed character map than the one above would need to be dynamic to illustrate the changing relationships as, for example, Elizabeth Bennet's dislike and resentment toward Darcy turn to gratitude and love. Such a map would also need a summary of the various characters' personal traits, such as Darcy's excessive pride (and slight shading of vanity?) -- but also reveal the humbling of that pride by Elizabeth.

With respect to these character traits, I've used the Latin terms superbia and vanagloria for "pride" and "vanity" in today's blog heading because I want to recall that these two categories of vice have a long intellectual history in Christian thought. These were originally two of the eight evil thoughts distinguished by the fourth century monk Evagrius Ponticus in his treatise De octo spiritibus malitiae (The Eight Spirits of Wickedness, original Greek: Περὶ τῶν οκτῶ πνευμάτων τῆς πονηρίας). These eight evil thoughts eventually developed into the seven deadly sins, partly due to Pope Gregory I (aka Gregory the Great), who joined superbia and vanagloria into the single sin of pride in the late sixth century. The thirteenth-century Thomas Aquinas follows Gregory I in considering pride the root of all vices, but he separates vanity from pride, listing vanity as one of the seven deadly sins and arguing that pride lies at the root of each of the seven. Most lists of the seven that I've seen in English, however, contain pride rather than vanity (vanity being considered an aspect of pride).

I'm not sure that Jane Austen would have been aware of these specific developments in the history of Christian thought, given her lack of a formal education, but she did read widely and was concerned to distinguish pride from vanity even while recognizing their similarity. In chapter 5 of Pride and Prejudice, the somewhat priggish Mary Bennet makes a useful distinction:
"Pride," observed Mary, who piqued herself upon the solidity of her reflections, "is a very common failing, I believe. By all that I have ever read, I am convinced that it is very common indeed; that human nature is particularly prone to it, and that there are very few of us who do not cherish a feeling of self-complacency on the score of some quality or other, real or imaginary. Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used synonymously. A person may be proud without being vain. Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves, vanity to what we would have others think of us."
Mary's observations are ignored, but Jane Austen uses them cleverly to raise some issue and make some distinctions. These two themes of "pride" and "vanity" are returned to again later in the story, in chaper 11, when Elizabeth tells Darcy that she finds follies, nonsense, whims, and inconsistencies diverting and enjoys laughing at them whenever possible, adding, "But these, I suppose, are precisely what you are without."
"Perhaps that is not possible for anyone. But it has been the study of my life to avoid those weaknesses which often expose a strong understanding to ridicule."

"Such as vanity and pride."

"Yes, vanity is a weakness indeed. But pride -- where there is a real superiority of mind, pride will be always under good regulation."

Elizabeth turned away to hide a smile.
Presumably, she smiles because she finds either folly, nonsense, whim, or inconsistency in Darcy's statement, probably the fourth item in this series, for Darcy's assurance that he has his pride "under good regulation" surely strikes her as manifestly inconsistent with his regular display of pride, as well as being a rather proud thing to say in any case.

Moreover, Darcy's pride is not well regulated by his superior mind. It only comes under better regulation through his love for Elizabeth, for rather than falling into a profound, bitter resentment that would merely serve to increase his injured pride upon being rejected by her, he writes her a letter that closes with an "adieu [that] is charity itself" and is taught by his love to feel the opposite of resentment, a sense of gratitude toward her for a moral lesson well learned, as he informs her himself in chapter 58:
What do I not owe you! You taught me a lesson, hard indeed at first, but most advantageous. By you, I was properly humbled. I came to you without a doubt of my reception. You showed me how insufficient were all my pretensions to please a woman worthy of being pleased.
And, interestingly, he admits in that same address and shortly thereafter to having had both of the faults "pride" and "vanity." He then goes on to say that upon their later chance encounter at his estate, he had striven by every civility in his power to show her that he "was not so mean as to resent the past," by which he meant her past refusal of his first marriage proposal.

Austen thus seems keen to encourage the cultivation of virtues, so I am puzzled by her nephew's remark in his biography of her that her novels "certainly were not written to . . . inculcate any particular moral . . . except indeed the great moral . . . namely, the superiority of high over low principles, and of greatness over littleness of mind" (Austen-Leigh, Memoir, page 153). I don't dispute that she was doing the latter, but I think that she was doing the former as well, i.e., inculcating particular moral virtues.

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Austen's hedged Christianity?

Steventon Rectory
(Image from Wikipedia)

The image above of the Steventon rectory where Jane Austen was born and grew up (till her 25th year) is from the first chapter of her 1869 biography A Memoir of Jane Austen by her nephew James Edward Austen-Leigh. I'll return to the biography in a moment, but I first want to note my second thoughts about a quote that I posted yesterday from a letter written by Austen on November 18, 1814 to her niece Fanny Knight offering her views on the Christian commitments of Ms. Knight's suitor James Plumtre:
And as to there being any objection from his Goodness . . . from the danger of his becoming even Evangelical, I cannot admit that. I am by no means convinced that we ought not all to be Evangelicals, & am at least persuaded that they who are so from Reason and Feeling, must be happiest & safest. Do not be frightened from the connection by your Brothers having most wit. Wisdom is better than Wit, & in the long run will certainly have the laugh on her side; & don't be frightened by the idea of his acting more strictly up to the precepts of the New Testament than others. (Jane Austen to Fanny Knight, 18 November 1814, Chapman, p. 410)
Austen praises 'Evangelicals' but does not appear to be one herself, and even her praise of them is hedged a bit, as I noted in a comment:
Austen is certainly a Christian . . . but figuring out precisely what sort is less simple than I had imagined. Even her letter containing praise of British 'Evangelicals' is hedged a bit. She admires those "who are . . . [Evangelical] from Reason and Feeling" -- or might one say 'Sense and Sensibility'.

We all know what she thinks of an exaggerated 'sensibility', so those who are Evangelical from 'Feeling' alone might not receive much praise.
By "sensibility" -- which I've borrowed from the title of Austen''s novel Sense and Sensibility -- is meant "sentiment," an emotion of strong feeling that Austen satirizes, though she's not entirely opposed to that feeling if kept within proper bounds by good sense. She might think the balance of "Reason and Feeling" to be rare, however. At any rate, she seems not to have spoken much about her own religious beliefs, for her nephew James Edward Austen-Leigh writes:
I do not venture to speak of her religious principles: that is a subject on which she herself was more inclined to think and act than to talk, and I shall imitate her reserve; satisfied to have shown how much of Christian love and humility abounded in her heart, without presuming to lay bare the roots whence those graces grew. Some little insight, however, into these deeper recesses of the heart must be given, when we come to speak of her death. (Austen-Leigh, Memoir of Jane Austen, page 100)
When he does come to speak of her death, however, he has little of significance to say:
Two of her brothers, who were clergymen, lived near enough to Winchester to be in frequent attendance, and to administer the services suitable for a Christian’s death-bed . . . . She was a humble, believing Christian. (Austen-Leigh, Memoir of Jane Austen, page 175)
Perhaps so, but we're still left wondering precisely what sort.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Jane Austen's Christianity?

Steventon Church
Where Austen Worshipped
(Image from Wikipedia)

Even though Jane Austen wears her Christian beliefs rather lightly in her novels, she seems to have taken Christianity seriously, as perhaps befits the daughter of a rector. According to Jane Stabler in "'Perswasion' in Persuasion" (Master Narratives, by Richard Gravil), "Jane Austen's Christianity important to her":
I am by no means convinced that we ought not all to be Evangelicals, & am at least persuaded that they who are so from Reason & Feeling, must be happiest & safest. (page 83)
Stabler cites Jane Austen's Letters, edited by Deirdre Le Faye (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1995, page 280). Precisely how important her Christianity was could be subject to some debate, for one might want to look more closely at this letter. According to Oliver MacDonagh, "The Church in Mansfield Park: a Serious Call?" (Sydney Studies in English, 1986-1987, 12, 36-55):
[This] letter of 18 November 1814 to her niece, Fanny Knight, discussing Fanny's suitor, James Plumtre, contains the clearest and perhaps the best known of all the religious comments in the correspondence. "And as to there being any objection from his Goodness", Jane writes,
from the danger of his becoming even Evangelical, I cannot admit that. I am by no means convinced that we ought not all to be Evangelicals, & am at least persuaded that they who are so from Reason and Feeling, must be happiest & safest. Do not be frightened from the connection by your Brothers having most wit. Wisdom is better than Wit, & in the long run will certainly have the laugh on her side; & don't be frightened by the idea of his acting more strictly up to the precepts of the New Testament than others. (Jane Austen to Fanny Knight, 18 November 1814, Chapman, p. 410)
These four religious references of 1813-14 [i.e., this one above and three others] seem to carry, however faintly, these particular implications: that Jane Austen's Christianity was Christocentric in the orthodox pious-protestant sense; that she conceived of religion as also national in character; that her anglicanism and her chauvinism were mutually supportive and interpenetrating; that she rejoiced in what seemed to her the increasing religiosity and advance in public morality in her homeland; that she was -- or at any rate believed one ought to be --seriously devout; and that, while she herself eschewed, she also respected and even envied the evangelical school in the Church of England, whose salvation was the more secure for the totality of their conversion. (MacDonagh, "The Church in Mansfield Park," pages 42-43, pdf)
MacDonagh appears to think that Austen had a rather conventional if serious Anglican piety. Reportedly -- according to Michael Wheeler ("Religion," in Janet M. Todd, Jane Austen in Context) -- Austen used a devotional:
One of the few books that we know was owned by Jane Austen herself, and not simply borrowed from her father's library of 500 volumes or from a circulating library, was William Vickers's A Companion to the Altar, later referred to by a great-niece, Miss Florence Austen, as a "book of devotions always used by Jane Austen.' (Wheeler, "Religion," Jane Austen in Context, page 410)
Todd notes that this book was intended for preparing the Christian for holy communion and that it emphasized the national significance of this sacrament.

Given her Anglican faith, Austen would undoubtedly be familiar with readings from the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, such as this one from the 1778 edition to be recited on "the next Sunday before Lent":
O Lord, who hath taught us, that all our doings without charity are nothing worth; Send thy Holy Ghost, and pour into our hearts that most excellent gift of charity, the very bond of peace, and of all virtues, without which whosoever liveth is counted dead before thee: Grant this for thine only Son Jesus Christ's sake. Amen.
This collective prayer is immediately followed by St. Paul's famous hymn to love in 1 Corinthians 13, which included lines that we've already looked at in a previous blog entry:
Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil (1 Corinthians 13:4-5)
The word "charity" sounds odd to our contemporary ears, but Austen would have understood it to mean an active, generous, giving and forgiving love. Neither in these two lines nor in the larger context of 1 Corinthians 13 are either "pride" or "resentment" explicitly mentioned, for this is the Authorized Version that we've already analyzed, but a strong warning against pride can easily be read in such expressions as "vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up" . . . though a warning against "resentment" is less readily found in "thinketh no evil."

Against pride and related vices, the Litany from this same Book of Common Prayer also warns:
From all blindness of heart; from pride, vain glory, and hypocrisy; from envy, hatred, and malice, and all uncharitableness, Good Lord, deliver us.
The regular Christian reader of such a prayer book would readily connect this with the Lent reading above.

What this all adds up to in Jane Austen's views on love, pride, and resentment is not entirely clear to me yet. I'm simply locating that dots to be connected later.

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Father-and-Son Time: Cycling

Dandy Horse
(Image from Wikipedia)

My son, En-Uk, is starting to grow up.

One week ago, I wanted him to go bike riding with me along one of the tributaries to the Han River, but he whinged about the hot day and refused to go riding. I told him that he needed to start growing up, especially if he wants to do anything during his upcoming Ozark trip, which will be hot.

He still refused, so I biked alone, but my wife tells me that after I'd left, En-Uk seemed to regret not having accompanied me.

I therefore gave him a second chance before he, Sa-Rah, and Sun-Ae take off for a month's vacation in the Arkansas Ozarks (leaving me alone with my books), and the two of us went off biking yesterday along a path beside that tributary river together as father and son.

We had a lovely time. En-Uk is ten years old and thus somewhere between childishness and puberty, a mixture of innocence and burgeoning awareness of 'other' things . . . though he claims to have no interest in girls yet and says that he will put off getting a girlfriend until high school. Or so he said over lunch at a place on an embankment overlooking the river near a spot where we had just spent thirty minutes trying to skip stones.

As I drank a refreshing beer . . . or two . . . En-Uk ate his ramyon noodles and told of a funny Chinese kung fu movie that his taekwando instructor had recently shown. In the story were a gang-shi and a gui-shin -- a Chinese vampire and a Korean ghost, respectively, though what a Korean ghost was doing in a Chinese film seems rather puzzling, now that I think about it. The movie was a comedy but had its scary moments, En-Uk acknowledged. I half-listened to a detailed and complicated explanation of how one defeats the Chinese vampire by pasting a scrap of paper with Chinese writing to the creature's forehead.

That sounded a bit like belling the cat, and I wondered how it could be safely done, but I didn't ask. I suppose that kung fu masters have superior skills and with their lightning-fast reflexes can quickly attach the protective paper.

After an hour of conversation about this . . . and that . . . we cycled our way back home, stopping a couple of times for popsicles and without even a single whinge from En-Uk. A dandy time . . . but I'm aching this morning and posting to this blog later than usual.

Not that I'm whingeing about that . . .

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Monday, July 20, 2009

St. Paul: "Love . . . is not . . . resentful"

Saint Paul Writing His Epistles
Artist: Valentin de Boulogne or Nicolas Tournier
Sixteenth Century
(Image from Wikipedia)

Yesterday, I cited I Corinthians 13: 4-7 in the New International Version (NIV) to suggest a source for Jane Austen's understanding of love's power to overcome resentment in Pride and Prejudice. In looking further, I discovered that the Revised Standard Version (RSV) offers the following translation for verse 5:
[Love] is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful.
Austen, of course, would have been using the Authorized Version (AV, aka King James Version (KJV)) or some variant of that, for the RSV was authorized later. Here's the old AV for verse 5:
[Love] doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil.
For the record, the AV uses an old term for "love," namely, "charity." Moreover, "thinketh no evil" does not immediately connote "is not . . . resentful." The larger passage, however, would lend itself to an understanding that true love is not resentful:
13:4 Charity suffereth long, [and] is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, 5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; 6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; 7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
The Greek behind the AV version, the so-called Textus Receptus, has the following for verse 5:
13:5 οὐκ ἀσχημονεῖ οὐ ζητεῖ τὰ ἑαυτῆς οὐ παροξύνεται οὐ λογίζεται τὸ κακόν
The phrase "οὐ λογίζεται τὸ κακόν" is what the RSV has translated as "is not resentful." The term "λογίζομαι" (logizomai, pronounced lo-gē'-zo-mī) means "to reckon, count, compute, calculate, count over" and can have the sense of "to take into account, to make an account of," or, metaphorically, "to pass to one's account, to impute." Since "κακός" (kakos, pronounced kä-ko's) means "evil," then "λογίζεται τὸ κακόν" (logizetai to kakos) could have the meaning of "to pass evil to (some)one's account," which would certainly overlap with the sense of "being resentful." The negative particle "οὐ" (ou, pronounced ü) negates the expression. Thus, true love is not resentful.

Of course, I can't assume that Jane Austen was reflecting on the meaning of the Greek original, but a next step would be to check old commentaries on 1 Corinthians 13:5 (and its context) to see if they offer any remarks on resentment.

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Sunday, July 19, 2009

Adam Smith: On Love and Resentment

Adam Smith
Etching by Cadell and Davies (1811),
John Horsburgh (1828),
or R.C. Bell (1872)
(Image from Wikipedia)

In The Theory of Moral Sentiments, the famous Scottish moral philosopher Adam Smith makes an interesting observation upon love and resentment:
"Love does not judge of resentment, nor resentment of love. Those two passions may be opposite to one another, but cannot, with any propriety, be said to approve or disapprove of one another." (Smith, Theory of Moral Sentiments, edited by Knud Haakonssen, Cambridge Texts in the History of Philosophy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), Part III, Chapter V, page 131)
I'm not certain what Smith intends by this. My hunch is that he means to say that the moral sentiments are fundamental and thus have to be acknowledged and taken as the brute facts upon which to base moral theory and to ground moral action.

I don't know that Jane Austen was aware of Smith's observation, but she might well disagree, for her novel Pride and Prejudice could as well have been titled Love and Resentment since the novel seems to be about the power of love to overcome even a "resentful" temperament like that of Darcy. Austen might rather appeal to I Corinthians 13: 4-7 for St. Paul's views on what love is and does:
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (New International Version, italics mine)
I'll have more to say of this another time.

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Saturday, July 18, 2009

Darcy's 'Implacable Resentment': Literary Background?

John Home (1722–1808)
By Sir Henry Raeburn
Painted c. 1795-1800
(Image from Wikipedia)

I'm still in the initial stages of my research on Darcy's "implacable resentment" but have found the expression used by the character Lady Randolph in the 1756 tragedy Douglas, by John Home:
Oh! rake not up the ashes of my fathers:
Implacable resentment was their crime,
And grievous has the expiation been.
These lines occur early in the play, suggesting that "implacable resentment" plays a significant role in this drama, but I will need to take a closer look.

I also found some intriguing lines in a play by Nicholas Rowe, whose image follows:

Nicholas Rowe
(Image from Wikipedia)

The play is Rowe's 1703 drama, The Fair Penitent, which has these intriguing words of Horatio:
I am not apt to take a light offence.
But patient of the failings of my friends,
And willing to forgive; but when an injury
Stabs to the heart, and rouses my resentment,
(Perhaps it is the fault of my rude nature)
I own, I cannot easily forgive it.
Horatio refers to his "rude nature" -- by which he means his unrefined character -- and attributes to this nature his difficulty in forgiving a resentment that stabs to the heart. This isn't precisely the same case as Darcy, for the latter has a refined character, but both appeal to their basic nature as explanation for their 'implacable' resentment. This play, incidentally, has the character Lothario -- who surely has some influence on Austen's shaping of her dissolute character Wickham.

I also want to note what appears to be a rich resource for my investigation of "resentment," an article by Niel Hargraves, "Resentment and History in the Scottish Enlightenment" (Cromohs, 14 (2009): 1-21), for this article "explores the ways in which Scottish Enlightenment writers such as Lord Kames, Adam Smith, David Hume and William Robertson used the concept of 'resentment'" to analyze "the role of the passions in human relations."

That sounds promising.

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